Monday, February 15, 2010
GOAL – UNION WITH CHRIST CRUCIFIED
Although each type of spirituality must abide by the teaching found in the Holy Gospel, it is the manner in which Saint Francis lived the Gospel that differentiates his spirituality from others. For him, the Gospel is simply Christ and His life. Indeed, the evangelical doctrine is nothing but the life of Christ, for Christ first acted and then proceeded to teach. Hence the spirituality of the Franciscan must center about the contemplation of Christ crucified.
As Saint Francis contemplated on Christ, his heart was filled with love and he desired nothing else but to become one with his Beloved. This is the result of a love that unites the lover and the Beloved; and this is the goal of every true Franciscan.
A Franciscan to be in union with the Christ crucified will only be effected when he possesses Christ Himself, and with Christ, the virtues of Christ. He becomes one with Christ by imitation of Him, transformation into Him, and identification with Him, so that he may exclaim with Saint Paul: ‘It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.’
This is the truly supernatural life. This is the Christian perfection to which we are called – the perfection of Christ in us! When the ‘old man’ is dead to himself, he makes way for the ‘new man,’ i.e., for Christ living in us, so that the mystical Christ may become one in all.
The words of Saint Paul found in the office of the Stigmata of Saint Francis, provides an excellent description of Franciscan spirituality. ‘With Christ I am nailed to the cross. It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.’ Saint Francis, inspired by love, lived these words. We as his followers, must also live them.
The love of Francis for Christ crucified is a response to the love for us that Christ expressed on the Cross, and it is the source of Francis' self–crucifixion by mortification, poverty, and humility. For, since the foundation of Franciscan spirituality is the love of Christ and, through that love, union with Him, this crucifixion must be undergone. It is only by crucifixion of the self through mortification, humility, and poverty, that one is transformed into Christ. This transformation into the likeness of Christ, or conformity with Christ, cannot be secured except through the destruction of the ‘old man’ in us, so that we may live as new men in Christ.